Elder care-Demands by elderly can be selfish and unrealistic!

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Too many elderly parents assume adult children will become responsible for them no matter what their child's life is at. They do not consider the impact it will have on their children's lives. Adult children are not built in safety nets for the elderly parent. Elderly parents must take some responsibility toward their care as they age and not assume their children will do it all for them. In today's economy it is selfish and unrealistic for the elderly to meet their expectations by their children. Have some compassion for your adult children and help yourselves first and in return your children will not hesitate to help you.


26 years ago my ILs returned to their original home state to live near their siblings. This move was heartily encouraged by their siblings, they were literally cheered on as they moved back "home".

My question at the time was "How will any of us (children) be able to help them when they are older now that they have moved several states away from everybody?" Yes, I can be annoying to my husband's family. All of the "home" state clan just looked puzzled when I asked.

Turn the clock forward and now I understand that they were puzzled that I didn't understand that the expectation was that the children would move to parents' home state when caregiving was required. Seriously, that was what all the older relatives assumed would happen.

When bad times finally did occur, the home state relatives were stumped that none of the children would leave established jobs (in today's economy!) in far away states to move to home state to take care of the folks.

I have read on this site the tales of many who have done exactly that, left jobs and homes to take care of their elderly parents. Some of them seemed to have ended up with financial disaster situations resulting from their loving assistance. We should learn from them. This would never have been a consideration for us. Never. The parents had their fun using those healthy golden retired years to hang out with their siblings and have a good time doing what they wanted. Now that health issues require care, the expectation is that their children drop their lives and come take care of them.

All those years my ILs expected everyone to come to their home if they wanted to see them. They rarely traveled to see their children and grandchildren, this caused a great deal of resentment as a retired couple has much more free time than working couples with kids. Their last visit to my home was in 1990. They hadn't been in my home for 22 years when we moved them here last year. My husband tried and tried to get them to come visit, the kids birthdays, holidays, high school graduations and college graduations and WEDDINGS happened without his parents. They didn't want to spend their money on such trips as they wanted to save their money.

I support the right of the older generation to do all these things. They may do whatever they want with their money. I appreciate it even more as I spend this carefully saved money on MIL's nursing home care. Maybe they would have preferred to use some of that money to visit their grandchildren, but that was not their choice at the time.

I reserve the same right for myself.

My parents did the same thing. Didn't really enjoy living near 4 of my siblings and their children. They hated the endless parade of grandchildren's activities. Now I do understand that being a grandparent is not everyone's cup of tea. BUT, to move away from everyone, again several states, to be near their own siblings during those lovely golden healthy years is going to cause some hurt feelings. Now that their fun is done, they want help.

At least in my family my mom returned to live near the 4 siblings for this needed care.
And over those years they attended graduations, holidays, and visits in everyone's homes.

Relationships should be reciprocal. If you cater to a selfish person you will just end up feeling used.
I am sorry but do not understand Grandparents moving away and not wanting to be involved with those children! I would do my caregiving from a distance under these conditions. Very sad family situation!

You are right about relationships being reciprocal. We all have to live with the choices we make.
I read a good blog last night on the tendency toward selfishness in elders. I talk sometimes about the tunnel vision that sets in to many older people. This blog also addressed and tried to explain the why. They (gracegems) wrote that as infirmity sets in, people lose the ability to do things they once enjoyed. As they sit in the house inactive, it becomes unimportant to them that someone else may enjoy the freedoms that they once enjoyed themselves. Their own life and problems become so large in their minds that they stop seeing the wants and needs of the people around them.

I am not entirely happy with gracegems' explanation. I feel there is a huge gap missing in the explanation. I do agree that many people become narcissistic as they age. I mean, why would anyone expect their child to leave their home, job, and spouse to come care for them in another state if there was not some pathological narcissism going on? I can't think of any circumstance where I could ask such a thing of anyone.

Adult children, particularly women, can often get pushed into a bad situation by feelings of guilt and obligation. The parents may want to stay in their home and have no one come in, so that means that one or more children are expected to sacrifice what may be several years of their lives. Sometimes it helps to look at these things by pulling ourselves out of the emotion. The healthy child will simply find a place near to them, tell Mom and Dad they can either move there or figure out something on their own, and stick with what they say. The parents are retired, and everyone else's lives should not rotate around the elders' desire to stay in a certain place. This is not meant to sound mean, just realistic. Parents can only do what we'll let them. We can be so programmed to obey and try to please parents that we end up making choices that are not the best for anyone involved.
OnceHated- my IL's did the same thing- moved across country in their 80s to be where it was warmer. My husband had to spend alot of $$ and vacation time whenever one got ill. Now, FIL has passed away, and MIL is living with us. She NEVER showed any interest in any of her grandchildren, openly disliking several from young ages. She has been so cruel over the years, I must admit my sympathy for her is very low. No one wants to visit, and she crys to my husband as if we should feel bad for her. You cannot show zero interest in children as they are growing up, and then expect they will want to have a relationship when they are grown. You reap what you sow.
JessieBelle, the selfishness has puzzled me for years. Not as much with my ILs as their alcoholism taught us over the years that addictions come first for people who have them. But my own parents became more and more selfish as they aged. After my dad died and mom returned to live near 4 of her children, I have tried to coach her long distance. Things like urging her to show an interest in the great-grandchildren. This would help build new relationships for her with her children and grandchildren. She doesn't want the grandchildren or the great-grandchildren in her home (she doesn't want them touching her things - the grandkids are all adults except one!) and she doesn't seek them out in their own homes.

This is very difficult for me to understand as I love children and would be thrilled to have grandchildren.

3 of my 4 siblings that she now lives near were careful to not let her schedule them into her life. She likes to keep a regular weekly schedule and tried at first to get them to adhere to her desires. Example: She wanted my brothers to come by once a week and take her garbage out for her, once a week, every week, on different days of course. The 4th sibling, the youngest sister has been the one that felt guilty and now Mom has her doing stuff nearly every day. Of course 4th sibling is beginning to be resentful of carrying the whole load of expectations. Everyone else was careful, but now that my youngest sister is in, she can't figure how to get herself out without feeling guilty.

I tried talking to Mom about paying baby sister as she has money problems. Newly divorced, 2 kids at home and her hours got cut to part time. Mom informed me that the time spent with her was as beneficial to my sister as it is was to her. She really believes that. My sister goes to her house every Saturday night and used to bring her kids. My mom let her know that the kids weren't welcome and my sister continues to go there every Saturday night, now without her kids.

I asked my mom if she wishes she had gone into a retirement community and she responded that she didn't need one as long as she had my baby sister. Yet she truly, truly believes that all the time my sister spends with her is equally benefiting my sister. Baby sister gets more resentful at the other siblings as time passes - but that's an old story on this board isn't it?

MyWitsEnd, thanks for sharing and sorry that your MIL didn't have any interest or affection for your children. It is heartbreaking isn't it? My grandmother was the most influential and kindest influence in my life. My kids had 4 grandparents who just didn't care.

My MIL is in a local nursing home. Her vascular dementia totally changed her personality. For the first time in her life she is loving and interested in others. Since its not really her, it doesn't mean anything to anyone. You can imagine that the residents and staff of her nursing home just can't believe that this lovely, sweet old lady doesn't get any visitors besides my husband and myself. One of her sons is so resentful that he hasn't spoken to her since before FIL's death. You would think that even with all that had gone on in the past, the son would at least call his mother after his father died. In their later years, they reaped what they sowed and like your MIL they complained heartily to everyone about their "uncaring children" and wanted everyone to feel badly for them.

Sometimes the residents and the staff will say things to my husband or myself suggesting that we should spend more time with her. I visit 3 times a week to make sure she is being properly cared for. I take her to doctor appointments and out for lunch and shopping - much less often now that she is stage 6 dementia. I am helping form a family council and interact frequently with the other residents. My husband visits her once a week, its all he can take. We are both very kind and loving to her as this dementia version enjoys hugs and kisses. Its not really her anymore, just a sort of being in his mom's body that has to be taken care of. I take care of her as I would want taken care of if I was in a similar state. I wouldn't want any of my kids sacrificing their life for me.

It does hurt my feelings when the residents or staff say things to us and if someone presses a bit too much I lay it on the line, "She was an alcoholic her entire adult life, abused her children, was hateful to IL's and had no interest in her grandchildren. That's why no one is here".

As littletonway said, she is living with her choices. As you said, she is reaping what she sowed.

I have always thought that the worst way to console a child who has an addict for a parent is to say "honey, your mama (daddy) loves you". Why would we teach children that abuse and neglect is love?

On a side note, my MIL never admitted to her alcoholism until her dementia was in full bloom. During her geriatric psych assessment she happily detailed it with her history.
My elderly parents were incredibly selfish - they actually bought the flat next door to me just so i would be legally compelled to look after them in their old age instead of putting them in a nursing home - argument being, it is sinful and unscriptural to put your parents in a nursing home.

well, Dad got dementia and i was forced by my mum and doctor to help look after dad.

when dad died, mum got dementia. Because mum wanted help from no one but me, the doctor forced me to be mums carer, saying i had no rights at all just because i have a disability - history of cancer, radiotherapy and four major operations including major back surgery.

things got to the stage mum posed a public safety risk. Still the doctor pandered to mum's selfishness by ordering me to care for mum all by myself without any help from any one.

but when I threatened the doctor with legal action, he got very scared and realized he would loose his medical practitioner license if a tragedy occurred.

long story short. Mum is now in s nursing home - the doctors admitted it should have happened five years ago.

but, in the nursing home, mum's selfishness continued. She rang me constantly day and night demanding i get her home and look after her myself. The only way to get some peace was to get my home phone disconnected. Then mum started ringing my cell phone, but fortunately my cell phone is a smart phone that can block numbers. I blocked her room number. Then the administration rang me to pressure me to go spend more time with mum, but i simply hung up and blocked their number. I gave the nursing home the phone numbers of all my brothers and sisters in law, so if anything happens to mum, the nursing home will have to contact them. I've done my bit. I cared for my selfish mother for nine years. I now wash my hands of her. My brothers and sisters in law can now take the calls from the nursing home. As it is i damaged my spine looking after mum and can no longer look after myself properly and need help with my housework - and all because my mum was too selfish to accept any help from anyone but me
Debralee, I think you are preaching to the converted here. :)
I have just run out of answers. Maybe that's fine because this one is more of a statement - a true one! - than a question. What you are really supposed to do if you are the elder is a) don't eat your children alive and b) take care of yourself as well as possible to try to avoid needing total care for years and years due to preventable frailty or complications. Ideally you have the foresight and wherewithal to make plans for the unpreventable things that can happen to anyone, like Alzheimer's. Surely the future matters, and the future can't exist solely to feed the past, because then there is nothing left. How do you get people to stop making and living by such incredibly wrong and self-serving assumptions about such fundamental things? I don't know where to begin.

And if you are on the receiving end of such absolute bull - that you should give up everything and everyone else in your life to go be a full time solo caregiver - not out of love or because there is not a good alternative, but because it's simply a requirement and an expectation - what do you do? There are so many things to weigh in making these decisions. I can't see abandoning your children because a parent wants you and only you to do it all for them, and then because they have you, they can brag about not "needing" any other help; I can't see abandoning a parent because they are difficult and unreasonable, with egocentricity made even worse by the loss of empathy and perspective taking that so often goes with dementia. Rocks and hard places.

What can I say - my husband is getting very slowly better from his hip surgery now seven weeks ago, but if I am around, there are always more chores for me to do. I cannot get to work on time because there is always one more thing I should do before I go. The one thing he really can't quite manage is to put his socks on...it's so good to know I am worth as much as an $11.95 plastic sock aid that we won't use because he has me. He really said that. I am rarely in a good spot to refuse something, though occasionally I can say "no you need the walk - go get that yourself" and its a good thing because he would still let me do everything I needed to do in the first week post op when I did take time off work and reasonably could. BTW I'm paying for the time off, I have to make up extra time on service and work more holidays...I'm tired...and I think I can't sleep because I am so angry about being a sock aid(e). I have to get up extra early again tomorrow as I really have to be somewhere at 8 AM, and his ONLY concern is that I will be here to put on his socks. I haven't told him that he'd better just leave his socks on tomorrow night because I am going to outreach leaving out from here at 6 AM.

I guess the answer is that however much we love our caregivees, we absolutely must learn to say no to unreasonable requests when we can't reasonably cater to them. I mean, it was fine if my mom wanted a certain type of old-fashioned phone directory thingie that she could not ever actually use, and it took three hours to find one online, but it made her a little happier; but not fine if she thought we could keep paying upkeep and taxes on a car she would never drive and a home she would never live in because she would not have in-home caregivers and threw out everyone who talked with her about it.

The whole damn non-caregiving world may sit there in judgement of us when we do but that's too damn bad.

I am so glad this board allows a little mild profanity.
I'm so glad to find this blog. Everywhere I have looked, I've been instructed to think about the poor elderly and how hard it is for them. I agree with that, but the fact is that parents create unfair situations for their children, and it's not right. My MIL lives a plane flight away from each of her children and says that she wants to "age in place" and not leave her home or town. Even though she is 90 and not always in good health, caring for an ill spouse, and MOST IMPORTANTLY has never bothered to sit down with her children to discuss how often she expected them to visit and how involved she needs them to be in hiring and managing her husband's caregiving and the many home services she requires. Then, of course, they also must drop everything to fly down for the periodic health emergencies that come up. I think it is the epitome of self-centeredness to be past your mid-80's and have no realistic plan for caring for yourself and your spouse. She's always been incredibly self-focused and with this last stretch, I've lost all patience with her. I don't go to see her, since someone has to take care of our kids and home while my husband flies out to meet her needs, and I'm losing my ability to provide him with the emotional support he needs because I resent him participating in her selfishness. Thank you for this place where I can express my frustrations!
Ah, the old "age in place" saying that we see on TV advertisements for insurance, finances, etc. I just sigh when I hear one ad say "have them live at home instead of in a home". Then we see Grandma who looks 70 smiling on the front porch hugging her family.....

Or the elderly man who's wife had died and he's in the car going to his son's or daughter's home because they got financing to add on a room. Who are we kidding here. Those are sweet ads but not the norm from what I have been reading on the forums.

My parents could have very easily purchased a large condo at a retirement village, same square footage as their current home... Dad could be swimming in the indoor pool.... he and Mom could enjoy the numerous restaurants that are available on site.... got a sore throat, just walk to the next building to see one of the two doctors on-site... need to deposit a dividend check, ditto, bank on-site.... need a greeting card, ditto, a lovely store on-site.... need groceries, free transportation, etc.

But why should my parents spend one dime at such a place when they have me on-site [well, just around the corner] to take time off from work to run here to there, and spend hours every month sitting in various doctor waiting rooms.... totally stressed out because this had become my second job [sigh].

All I can say, I hope when we are our parents age that we remember these things, and don't repeat history.

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